Stuffy Nose During Pregnancy - Causes, Symptoms And Home Remedies

Stuffy Nose During Pregnancy

Image: Shutterstock

Nearly 30% of women experience nasal problems at some point during their pregnancy (1). While that is not a major problem in your pregnancy, there is definitely some discomfort. And one of these discomforts is pregnancy rhinitis, commonly known as stuffy nose that is neither serious nor long-lasting. Still it can add to your pregnancy woes and keep you ill at ease. MomJunction helps you understand the condition, its symptoms, causes, and treatments. We also cover a few common questions that you may have about a stuffy nose.

What Is Pregnancy Rhinitis?

Pregnancy rhinitis refers to nasal congestion during pregnancy. It is similar to a stuffy nose during cold, but occurs due to hormonal changes in pregnancy. The blood and estrogen levels shoot up and cause swelling in the lining of nasal passages resulting in more mucus. The excess blood circulation swells the tiny blood vessels inside your nose and leads to nasal congestion during pregnancy (2).

There may be a few problems associated with this condition, but how dangerous can pregnancy rhinitis get? Let’s find out.

Is Rhinitis Dangerous During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy rhinitis can cause mild to moderate side effects in the mother and baby. But it is not dangerous.It would cause sleep issues and you wake up at night due to breathing difficulties. This will also affect your fetus’ ability to receive the amounts of oxygen essential for development (3). It may cause chronic sinusitis or ear infections if you are also suffering from allergies (4).

You do not have to worry about the problem as you can recognize it with a few tell-tale signs.

[ Read: Sore Throat During Pregnancy ]

Signs And Symptoms Of Pregnancy Rhinitis:

The most common symptoms you may experience are below (5).

  • Stuffy, itchy, or runny nose
  • Constant coughing and sneezing
  • Itchy throat and nose
  • Itchy, swollen, or watery eyes
  • Stuffy feeling in the sinus cavities and associated headache

If these symptoms continue for a couple of weeks, then you should check with your practitioner for timely treatment. The symptoms may last for a few months too; therefore, it is necessary to know what causes this problem.

Causes Of Pregnancy Rhinitis:

Some cases of nasal congestion are benign. But a stuffy nose can be caused due to the below reasons:

  • If rhinitis or stuffy nose is associated with coughing, sneezing, mild aches, sore throat, or fever, it can be a cold or an infection (6).
  • If you have a fever, headache, yellow or green mucus, facial pain (that worsens when you bend), low sense of smell, or an upper jaw ache, it is sinusitis (7).
  • If you have a stuffy nose along with watery mucus, sneezing, and itchy eyes, throat, nose, or ears, then you may have an allergy. Allergies are unpredictable during pregnancy as you may become sensitive to allergens or other irritants that have never bothered you earlier (8).

It may be difficult to figure out the actual cause of your nasal congestion as there can be more than one. For instance, you can have both pregnancy rhinitis and an allergy at the same time. This is why you must see a doctor if any of the above symptoms last beyond a week or two.

[ Read: Sinus During Pregnancy ]

How Long Does A Stuffy Nose Last?

A stuffy nose may start in your second month of pregnancy, and get worse there on. It usually eases up after delivery and disappears within two weeks of delivery (9).

However, you can alleviate the suffering with some natural remedies.

Home Remedies For Pregnancy Rhinitis Relief:

There are some simple and natural remedies you can try to get some relief from the annoying symptoms.

1. Inhale steam:

Take some hot water in a bowl. Put a towel over your head and inhale the steam from the hot water. Try to breathe in and breathe out for some time. This helps relieve the nasal congestion, and lets you breathe better (10).

2. Use a humidifier:

Use a vaporizer or humidifier in your room when you are sleeping. It increases the moisture in the room and rids you of the stuffiness. You should clean the humidifiers regularly and change the water so that there is no bacterial growth.

3. Saline drops or sprays can help:

Saline sprays contain a salt solution. You can drip a drop into each nostril, and feel the relief within five to ten minutes.

4. Homemade nasal lavage:

Take one pint of sterile water and add a teaspoon each of salt and baking soda. Mix well and pour some into your palm. Then sniff it into each nostril and repeat until you feel relieved. Repeat it twice or thrice a day and make fresh lavage every time (11).

5. Blow your nose:

Hold one nostril with your thumb and gently blow through the other. It will force the air to exit through one nostril at a time thus clearing the passage. Repeat the same with the other nostril.

6. Keep your head elevated:

Use extra pillows to raise your head while sleeping. This helps relieve nasal congestion and heartburn.

7. Exercise:

Light exercises or brisk walk clears nasal congestion. But, do not exercise outdoors as the air pollution can aggravate your congestion. Do cardiovascular exercises regularly for a better airflow and sleep (12).

8. Avoid irritants:

Cigarette smoke, paints, alcohol, and strong smelling agents can aggravate your condition and you must avoid these triggers.

9. Stay hydrated:

Have lots of water, broth, and citrus juices as they not only reduce congestion but also keep you and your growing fetus healthy. Cut down on caffeine and caffeinated drinks to avoid dehydration (13).

10. Apply petroleum jelly:

The inflamed nasal passage turns dry and gives a burning sensation. To keep the passage moist, swab some petroleum jelly on a cotton bud and apply.

[ Read: Cold During Pregnancy – Causes, Symptoms & Remedies ]

11. Take vitamin C foods:

Increase vitamin C in your diet to reduce the chances of nose bleeds. You could have kiwis, tomatoes, oranges, and bell peppers (13).

12. Acupressure (bridge of the nose point):

Press the points at the bridge of the nose and the eye sockets with your thumbs for about five minutes. You can press the two points one after the other or at a time. On applying the right pressure at the right place, you will get rid of mucus and congestion.

13. Warm up your legs:

Fill up the socks with mustard seeds and wear them during bedtime. This will keep your legs and body warm, reducing the swelling in the tissues of the nose.

14. Horseradish mixture:

Combine finely chopped horseradish, apples, and a bit of sugar. Take about two tablespoons of it every day to get relief from a stuffy nose. Horseradish is known to fight bacteria and improve immunity.

15. Ginger tea:

Ginger contains anti-inflammatory agents. So, try to start your day with a hot cup of ginger tea made with freshly grated ginger and a little honey. It clears away the nasal passages and improves your fluid intake.
Before following any of these remedies, check with your doctor about their suitability. Once you get the approval, you could try the home remedies. Certain situations, however, require you to see a doctor immediately.

When To Contact A Medical Professional?

If you have been suffering from pregnancy rhinitis for more than two weeks or if you have sleep issues associated with stuffy nose and snoring, then you must see a medical professional. Do not take any medication without your doctor’s prescription and if you have taken any medications, then let the doctor know about it.

The medical practitioner may also suggest a few tests to ensure that there is no underlying infection or to get a better understanding of the condition.

What To Expect At The Hospital?

Your healthcare provider may examine your nose, throat, ears, and airways. They might suggest a few tests, if necessary:

  • Blood and skin tests in case of allergies
  • Throat culture and sputum culture
  • X-ray of sinuses
  • Chest X-ray

Depending on your symptoms and the test results, the doctor prescribes medications to treat the condition.

[ Read: Dry Cough During Pregnancy ]

Treatment Of Pregnancy Rhinitis:

It is best to avoid medications, especially in the first trimester. But if your condition is unbearable, then the doctor might prescribe some medications that are safe to use during pregnancy.

1. Nasal decongestant sprays:

As the sprays are not oral medications and cannot enter the placenta, they are safe. They ease the condition quickly, but the congestion could come back and get severe (14). Your doctor might prescribe a few over-the-counter nasal decongestant sprays such as Afrin, Vicks, Neo-synephrine, and Mucinex.

2. Antihistamine sprays:

Pregnancy rhinitis is usually caused or aggravated due to the release of histamines. Antihistamines, therefore, help control severe symptoms. The first-generation antihistamines are safe nasal sprays during pregnancy (15). A few over-the-counter drugs are Astepro (azelastine) and Astelin (16).

3. Nasal steroid sprays (intranasal glucocorticoid sprays):

They are safe to use for mild to moderate symptoms of stuffy nose related to allergies. They also work effectively on post nasal drip symptoms such as chronic cough, mucus running down the throat, and hoarse voice. Nasacort AQ (triamcinolone), Flonase (fluticasone propionate) (17), Omnaris (ciclesonide), Nasonex (mometasone), Veramyst (fluticasone furoate), and Rhinocort Aqua (budesonide) are some common intranasal steroid sprays that can be used (18).

Nasacort AQ nasal spray that is available over the counter is known to carry certain side effects such as abnormalities in the respiratory system and choanal atresia (blockage of nasal airways) (19).

4. Antihistamine tablets:

If you do not like using nasal sprays, then antihistamine tablets such as Zyrtec (cetirizine) and Claritin (loratadine) can be used. Though they are less effective than the nasal sprays, they are actually safe during pregnancy.

Now that you know about the symptoms, causes, home remedies, and treatments for a stuffy nose, you might have a few questions on the matter. Below we answer a few.

[ Read: Medicines To Avoid During Pregnancy ]

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Is pregnancy rhinitis an early sign of pregnancy?

Yes. Around the ninth week of pregnancy, the increasing hormonal levels (especially estrogen) cause swelling in the mucus membranes, which line up the nose. This produces more mucus, thus resulting in blocked nose at night. Also, the increased blood volume inflames the tiny blood vessels in the lining of your nose and causes congestion (20). This could indicate pregnancy. However, you should get an hCG test done in order to confirm pregnancy.

2. Is Afrin safe during pregnancy?

Afrin contains an active ingredient oxymetazoline, which causes shrinkage of blood vessels in the nasal passages and helps you breathe easily (21). It is the second line of treatment if the symptoms are severe. It can only be taken with a doctor’s prescription.

3. Is Otrivin safe in pregnancy?

Otrivin (Xylometazoline) nasal drops are not safe unless your doctor prescribes it (22). The decongestant spray is often used for nasal congestion caused by a cold. If you have been taking it before your pregnancy, talk to your doctor about its continuation.

4. Can I use Vibrocil nasal spray during pregnancy?

You should consult a doctor before taking Vibrocil as the effects of this medication are unknown. It is usually prescribed for temporary relief of a stuffy nose.

5. Is it safe to use Sudafed nasal spray when pregnant?

According to the UK National Health Services, pregnant women should not use Sudafed for a stuffy nose. However, they can check with the practitioner, and she may prescribe another medication in case nasal congestion is associated with sinusitis.

6. Can I take Sinutab when pregnant?

Sinutab is a nasal decongestant spray prescribed for nasal congestion and sinusitis. You should check with your doctor about taking it during pregnancy (23).

7. Is phenylephrine hydrochloride nasal spray safe during pregnancy?

You should avoid phenylephrine decongestants during pregnancy especially in the first 13 weeks as there are reports of birth defects associated with this medication (24). Though the risk is low for normal women, it can be high for smokers.

8. Can I use Vicks nasal spray when pregnant?

The safety of Vicks nasal spray, Vicks vapor rub, or Vicks inhaler has not been established so far. Therefore, it is better to check with your doctor before you use them during your pregnancy.

Some of the other nasal spray decongestants that require caution are iliadin, equate, Drixoral, Dimetapp, beclate, naphazoline, and xynosine.

9. What are the alternative names of pregnancy rhinitis?

Pregnancy rhinitis is also known as nasal congestion, stuffy nose, runny or drippy nose.

Pregnancy rhinitis is not a serious problem and it goes away with certain remedies and medications. But you must take rest and see a doctor in case the symptoms do not go away soon.

[ Read: Aspirin During Pregnancy ]

If you have any more questions on stuffy nose during pregnancy, then leave them in the comments section.

Recommended Articles:

Was this information helpful?

Comments are moderated by MomJunction editorial team to remove any personal, abusive, promotional, provocative or irrelevant observations. We may also remove the hyperlinks within comments.